On the Latest Clinton “Scandal”

I know, I know, I have other things and more important things I should be working on. But I went to so much trouble typing this up, it seemed fitting to share over here too.

Anyway, yesterday Donna Brazile posted an excerpt from her book on Politico, where she made some damning claims.

The Saturday morning after the convention in July 2015, I called Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Hillary’s campaign. He wasted no words. He told me the Democratic Party was broke and $2 million in debt.

“What?” I screamed. “I am an officer of the party and they’ve been telling us everything is fine and they were raising money with no problems.” […]

“Wait,” I said. “That victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee, and the state party races. You’re telling me that Hillary has been controlling it since before she got the nomination?” […]

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

I was pointed to the story shortly after it was published, but decided to bide my time. It smelt too good to be true, and I was sure other people would start digging into the details. Indeed, it wasn’t long before someone found a draft of the Joint Fundraising Agreement for 2015, because (ironically enough) WikiLeaks posted it as part of their email dump. If you scan over it, you’ll find nothing to support Brazile’s claims.

Then today I spotted a Twitter thread by someone with knowledge of the workings of the Hilary Victory Fund. Long story short: thanks to her high profile, decades of experience, and a Supreme Court decision, Clinton raised a whopping $530 MILLION for herself and the DNC. Alas, Sanders wouldn’t concede the race, and Clinton’s agreement was that she’d share it once she was the official nominee, so she couldn’t fork over the DNC’s share of the cash. This led to Sanders and a few reporters claiming Clinton was greedy, because she was sitting on a giant pile of cash and refusing to share it!

When Sanders finally threw in the towel, Clinton started distributing the funds to the cash-strapped DNC: $158 million for her campaign, $107 million for the federal DNC, and the remaining $264 million for all the state-level DNC parties. How that translates into “less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed” is something only Brazile can answer.

But the most convincing argument arrived late this afternoon when MSNBC posted the memo which is supposed to be the “smoking gun” for Brazile. There is a section in there where they talk about hiring a Clinton-approved communications director, but that’s undercut by some language which appears near the end:

Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to violate the DNC’s obligation of impartiality and neutrality through the Nominating process. All activities performed under this agreement will be focused exclusively on preparations for the General Election and not the Democratic Primary. Further we understand you may enter into similar agreements with other candidates.

Fun fact: the DNC pursued and signed a similar Joint Fundraising Agreement with Bernie Sanders. He had very different fund-raising tactics, though.

Nowhere in the piece does Brazile mention that Politico reported the fundraising agreement between the DNC and Hillary when it happened, nor does she mention that the Sanders campaign also signed a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC. Bernie could have raised more money through that agreement, which would have helped the DNC financially and also arguably helped down-ballot Democrats, but he chose to raise money through small donations.

Now, maybe there are some amazing revelations hidden within Brazile’s book which upend everything I’ve mentioned. Alas, it isn’t available for sale; everything you’ve read has been an excerpt, and the full book won’t be available for weeks. That’s a bit of a problem, as in four days there’s a critical election in Virginia. The Democrat, Ralph Northam, is roughly tied with the Republican, a very Trump-ian Ed Gillespie. The DNC has actually done well after the 2016 election, roughly 10-15 points better than expected, but due to rotten luck and gerrymandering that hasn’t been enough to flip many seats to their side. They’re desperate for a high-profile victory, and up until recently this Virginia election looked like their best shot.

Except by choosing to publish sensational excerpts with explosive allegations against Clinton and the DNC days before the election, with the full context only to be revealed after the election, Brazile and/or her publisher may have handed the Virginia race to the Republican on a platter. This not only hurts the DNC, but the reformers trying to improve the DNC, and makes the latter look like sensationalist conspiracy theorists who are willing to sabotage the party if it’ll line their own pockets.

Overall, I have to side with Josh Marshall’s latest Twitter rant on this.

I think a fair read is that they wanted control over things for the general, which is fair and normal. But they also wanted control over the building of what they expected to inherit for the general. That’s not unreasonable in itself but also meant having a lot of veto power over things that were happening during the primaries, hiring of key staff. So while it says these things apply exclusively to the general, they were also getting veto rights over organizational decisions *during* the primaries even if they weren’t abt the primaries. There are also some lines in their abt rights to review emails etc that are a little unclear to me and might create more control.

The upshot is that this is significantly different from what [Donna Brazile] claimed. But it also includes levels of control pre-general election that wld have come as a surprise to many. As I said in my post this morning, there’s nothing remotely here that qualifies as “rigging” the election. That’s inflammatory, frankly a smear. Indeed, it makes no sense if you have any real understanding of what the dnc even does it can do. The schedules are set up way in advance, long before people at the DNC had any idea Sanders would run such a strong campaign. The DNC doesn’t administer the primaries, the states do. Basically the DNC cldnt rig the process even if it wanted to.

This agreement isn’t nothing. No candidate shld have this kind of say during the primaries even if it’s abt things for the general. But it’s very different from what Brazile describes and it doesn’t remotely mean anything [was] “rigged”. That’s a smear intended for political effect.


Donna Brazile’s descent into fantasy continues.

Brazile describes in wrenching detail Clinton’s bout with pneumonia. On Sept. 9, she saw the nominee backstage at a Manhattan gala and she seemed “wobbly on her feet” and had a “rattled cough.” Brazile recommended Clinton see an acupuncturist. Two days later, Clinton collapsed as she left a Sept. 11 memorial service at Ground Zero in New York. Brazile blasts the campaign’s initial efforts to shroud details of her health as “shameful.”

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to replace the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee the process of filling the vacancy.

Josh Marshall spotted this and did his homework.

I have long known that once nominated, a prez nominee has to resign from the ticket or die to be replaced. But I’d never actually looked up the rules in the DNC charter and bylaws. So I thought I’d take a look. It turns out they’re even more limited than I’d understood. My quick review of the charter suggests that nothing can happen unless there’s a ‘vacancy’ and the decision is in the hands of the full committee. I think by definition that means only resignation or death can lead to replacement. So while I had assumed incapacitation cld lead to replacement that is not actually clear. In practice, if a nominee had a stroke and had not regained consciousness, I suspect the full committee wld meet and rule that the position was vacant through incapacitation. My point in noting this is hat I think Brazile’s claims may be even more baseless than I’d realized.

But while he was doing said homework, something interesting happened to that Washington Post story.

Whenever Brazile got frustrated with Clinton’s aides, she writes, she would remind them that the DNC charter empowered her to initiate the replacement of the nominee. If a nominee became disabled, she explains, the party chair would oversee a complicated process of filling the vacancy that would include a meeting of the full DNC.

There’s no correction notice, as I type this. So who got it wrong, Brazile or the reporter? I have a theory.

geri: Why did U release info now-U may have destroyed DEM chances at VA elections-No hurry to get this out
Stop litigating 2016

Brazile: There are major elections all across America. Get out and help us. Thanks for your service! We must win in Virginia, New Jersey and more.

It’s one thing to pivot when you’re asked a question in person, because the situation demands an answer of some sort. But it’s quite another to volunteer to answer a question, then blatantly fail to do so. Brazile has faced a barrage of people asking her the same question for the last day, and this is the best answer she can come up with. In other words, she knows people are demanding answers from her, but she has no answer she’s willing to say in public. As Josh Marshall put it,

This is all pure fantasy. She’s married a non-existent power with a highly improbable prescience to create a kind of retrospective, fantasy football version of the nomination in which the momentous and weighty decisions all fell to her. It is highly reminiscent of the agonizing call in which she purportedly informed Bernie Sanders that he’d been right all along and the nomination race had been “rigged”.

This and other claims from Brazile’s book which have come out in the last few hours only confirm me in thinking that her claims are at least self-serving, in other cases highly improbable and in some cases literally impossible.

Brazile is not thinking about what’s best for the Democrats, she’s thinking about what’s best for herself. By timing the book excerpts to come out days before the Virginia election, she’s brought far more attention to her book than it would have earned otherwise. This might cost Democrats a governor seat, but Brazile would rather have a Trump-style Republican in charge than help an organization she views as deeply corrupt.

This is a problem when her views have only a loose connection to reality.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL

Sorry, but I’ve gotta rage for a bit, because many people are missing the bigger picture.

Today we mourn the horrifying terrorist attack in New York City, just blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center. A man drove a truck into a pedestrian bike path and murdered eight people, and injured very, very seriously at least 11 more. […]

My administration is coordinating closely between federal and local officials to investigate the attack and to further investigate this animal who did the attacking. And updates will be provided as available. […]

We want a merit-based program where people come into our country based on merit. And we want to get rid of chain migration. This man that came in — or whatever you want to call him — brought in, with him, other people. And he was a point — he was the point of contact — the primary point of contact for — and this is preliminarily — 23 people that came in, or potentially came in with him. And that’s not acceptable. So we want to get rid of chain migration, and we’ve wanted to do that for a long time. And I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time. And we’ll be asking Congress to start working on it immediately. […]

That was a horrible event, and we have to stop it, and we have to stop it cold. We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. They’ll go through court for years. And at the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens.

Trump said that a few days ago, sans the bolding. The president of the United States openly dehumanized a murder suspect, probably on the basis of his skin colour and religion, and yet the primary focus of media reports has been on visas, dual standards, hypocrisy, or pretty much anything else. Have we all forgotten about the toxic effects of dehumanization and its tendency to promote hatred and violence? Has two years of this shifted the Overton window so far that “dog megaphones” don’t even register as noteworthy?

I might have stayed silent, except this isn’t an isolated case. Take this from the same news conference:

We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place. And I think I can speak for plenty of other countries, too, that are in the same situation. […]

Q Mr. President, do you want the assailant from New York sent to Gitmo?

THE PRESIDENT: I would certainly consider that, yes.

Q Are you considering that now, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I would certainly consider that. Send him to Gitmo — I would certainly consider that, yes.

To be absolutely crystal clear on this, the president of the United States was saying the justice system of his own country is ineffectual, to the point that he is weighing in on matters of justice and basic fundamental rights. This isn’t a one-off, either, let’s take to his Twitter feed:

NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!

Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system…

…There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!

Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but I have to emphasize this: the executive branch of the United States is attempting to dictate what the judicial branch of the US should do. Repeatedly. This violates the right of the accused to a fair trial, which has already had concrete effects.

President Trump’s harsh criticism of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his Army post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban, will weigh in favor of a lighter sentence for the sergeant, a military judge said on Monday. “I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance of the Army, said during a hearing at Fort Bragg. The judge is expected to sentence Sergeant Bergdahl in the next few weeks.

The judge rejected a request that he dismiss the case or cap the length of the sentence on the grounds that the president’s comments had precluded a fair hearing. The judge said he had not been influenced by the remarks and that the public’s confidence in the military justice system had not been undermined.

This has the potential to become a vicious spiral: Trump angrily tweets inflammatory and dehumanizing statements about someone, the judicial system lightens sentences or rules that makes a fair trial impossible, which angers Trump more. These are not the acts of a president, but a dictator.

The President is saying that he would like to interfere in ongoing investigations. He is saying that he would like to order up investigations of his political opponents. He is announcing that he is a corrupt actor who does not believe in the rule of law. He is a man who is capable of firing his FBI Director because he will not aid him in these endeavors and to threaten his [Attorney General] and his [Deputy Attorney General] and the special counsel over the inconveniences they pose him. Even as I type this, he is tweeting about how DOJ should be investigating Clinton. (For example: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/926403023861141504…) In these comments, he is announcing frankly how badly he wants to corrupt the DOJ.

And yet, he is “frustrated.” Why? […] It’s because the norm of independent law enforcement—which he is menacing—is actually strong enough to constrain him—at least right now. It’s strong enough that he can fulminate all he wants about investigating Clinton and still Mueller does his job, and the FBI does its job, and the men and women of the DOJ do their jobs, and none of their jobs, as our democratic polity has determined them, is to fulfill his undemocratic ambitions to loose investigators on people he doesn’t like and to have the Justice Department protect him. It’s a stunning statement of presidential constraint: A president actually saying that he aspires to corrupt interference with law enforcement and can’t pull it off. Let it warm your heart. It sure warms mine.

Alas, Benjamin Wittes, it instead chills mine. Trump has so eroded democratic norms that he can dehumanize people and act like a dictator without facing immediate consequence. Instead, our best hope is that the judicial branch isn’t corrupted too quickly before the 2018 midterms, when the Democrats will hopefully gain a House majority and stay steady in the Senate and thus gain enough leverage to start impeachment proceedings.

That’s a lot of future hope to deal with an immediate problem. This should not be the norm. And yet, it appears to be.

MythCon Ain’t Over – Part Two

[CONTENT WARNING: Mythicist Milwaukee. Also, you’ll want to read part one first]

Before we get too far in, let’s sketch out a few hypotheses.

If you’re arguing that MythCon was a fluke, you’re arguing that the majority of people within the atheist/skeptic movement oppose giving problematic YouTube atheists/skeptics a platform. This would imply that people who opposed said YouTubers would be valued within the community, and you’d expect a net increase in their value on Patreon. If the majority of Patrons for these YouTubers were from the greater majority, you’d expect to see a drop in value as they took the stage and a net decrease in their Patreons. This is probably incorrect; as pointed out last time, the Patrons of someone likely agree with their views already. They are taking the stage, sometimes for the first time, and presenting their views to a fresh audience. Existing Patrons should see value in that and reward them, while we should also expect some new Patrons to arrive if they like what they see, also boosting the Patreon account’s bottom line. [Read more…]

Pardon the Interruption,

but there’s someone I’d like you to meet. His name is George Papadopoulos, and he has quite the story to tell.

In early March 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the Campaign. Defendant PAPADOPOULOS was living in London, England, at the time. Based on a conversation that took place on or about March 6, 2016, with [Sam Clovis] (the “Campaign Supervisor”), defendant PAPADOPOULOS understood that a principal foreign policy focus of the Campaign was an improved U.S. relationship with Russia. […]

On or about March 31, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS attended a “national security meeting” in Washington, D.C., with then-candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisors for the Campaign. When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin. […]

On or about ApriI 18, 2016, the Professor introduced defendant PAPADOPOULOS over email to an individual in Moscow (the “Russian MFA Connection”) who told defendant PAPADOPOULOS he had connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“MFA .. ). The MFA is the executive entity in Russia responsible for Russian foreign relations. Over the next several weeks, defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Russian MFA Connection had multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting “the groundwork” for a “potential” meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials. […]

The government notes that [Paul Manafort] forwarded defendant PAPADOPOULOS’s email to [Rick Gates] (without including defendant PAPADOPOULOS) and stated: “Let[‘]s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should
be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”

What’s especially fascinating is when all this happened. Not the bits detailed in the “Statement of the Offense,” mind, but the fact that Papadopoulos was arrested in July of 2017 and pled guilty on October 5th. Robert Muller not only has a critical witness to Trump-Kremlin collusion in his back pocket (see section 6 on page 4, plus this tweet), he’s managed to keep that from leaking out for months. Even worse, Papadopoulos has close connections to Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump.

RYAN: Thank you… We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly… Any you can share with us?

TRUMP: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names… Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy; the Honorable Joe Schmitz, [former] inspector general at the Department of Defense; [retired] Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; and I have quite a few more. But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do, but that’s a representative group.

See what I mean? I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Papadopoulos in future.


Goddammit, could they at least pace this stuff out?

The Court being in receipt of the government’s letter of October 30th, 2017, and having considered the government’s representation that sealing of the plea proceedings in the above-captioned case is no longer necessary … it is hereby

ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall unseal and make available on the public docket any and all documents filed with the Court pertaining to the above-captioned case, including: the information; defendant’s plea agreement (including the Statement of Facts); the transcript of the October 5, 2017 plea hearing, the government’s October 5, 2017 motion to seal; and the Court’s order granting the motion of seal; and it is further

ORDERED that the dockets in the above-captioned criminal case [Papadopoulos’ false statement case] and the associated miscellaneous case (No. 17-mc-2482) shall be unsealed in their entirety.

A few hours later, documents are starting to rain down on us. You’ll need a paid PACER account to read that one, but it’ll only be a matter of time until someone makes the document public. As that happens, I’ll try to update this post with links.

Also, what is “17-mc-2482?” That’s not the Manafort/Gates indictment, and Google searches come up empty. I guess we’ll find out shortly…


Sorry for all the shouting, courts just like to do that. In order of appearance, right from the top:

Sigh, I haven’t spotted any filings in Papadopoulos’ legal case in a few days. I guess they are pacing this out.

In the meantime, the White House’s denials that Papadopoulos had a non-trivial role in Trump’s campaign are beginning to unwind.

“Papadopolous was only one among the many contacts [the American Jewish Committee] established and maintained among advisers to both parties’ 2016 presidential candidates and in the two parties’ national committees,” AJC spokesperson Ken Bandler said in a statement. […]

The AJC forum, occurred on the third day of the RNC in downtown Cleveland. Papadopolous sat on a panel with Reps. Tom Marina, R-Pa., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., both members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee while Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave opening remarks.[…]

Papadopoulos’ public role for the Trump campaign continued. In late September, just six weeks before Election Day, he gave an interview as a Trump campaign official to the Russian Interfax News Agency, where he said that Trump will “restore the trust” between the U.S. and Russia.

And he met with Israeli leaders during the inauguration in January as a foreign policy adviser for the newly-sworn in president. “We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel, including the historic Judea and Samaria,” Papadopoulos told the Jerusalem Post the following day.

Naturally, Carter Page isn’t helping the situation.

Where Have You Been?

Thomas Smith released a podcast episode about his time at MythCon. I have few nitpicks about it; the bit where he chastised people for calling the organizers “Nazis” because it didn’t help him came across as tone policing and a touch self-absorbed, and I was chuffed he didn’t mention Monette Richards when he listed off people who’d been right about what would happen. But that needs to be weighed against the rest of what he said on that podcast, and in particular an honest-to-goodness ultimatum he issued to Mythicist Milwaukee: change and disavow your problematic board members, or he’ll do everything he can to discourage people from their events. Never thought I’d hear something like that from him.

The kudos and love he’s getting right now are deserved. His performance at MythCon was the best anyone could hope for, based on the few scraps I’m seeing. And yet, those kudos come with a bitter taste. Steve Shives beat me to the reason why, and Smith himself has suggested he agrees with Shives, so in some sense what follows is redundant. But it’s a point that needs emphasis and repetition until it fully sinks in. [Read more…]

Above the Drama

Apologies for the radio silence, I’ve had a rotten few weeks. Before I put the blog in “park” for a few months, though, I want to weigh in on a local controversy. That’s still brewing behind the scenes unfortunately, so the silence shall continue, but I do have a less-local controversy to discuss in the meantime.

I’m withdrawing my name, my speech, my presence, and my participation from the 2017 Mythinformation Conference.
I’m trying to discern what good might have come from the controversy surrounding MythCon. So far, the only positive is that the furor has revealed a clearer portrait of people, attitudes, arguments, and the already-frayed atheist movement.
You’ve heard of the Mythinformation thing, no doubt. Aron Ra had already pulled out (Lilandra Ra has the deets), and now Seth Andrews is vacating the premises.

I’m pro-Feminism. I’m pro-Black Lives Matter. I’m pro-Humanism. I’m pro-humanity. I’m also interested in engaging with those who respectfully disagree on the critical issues of our age, as long as those agents are operating in good faith, with respect for all, and a desire to work together not merely to win, but to see the best ideas win. The YouTubers in question don’t even come close to that mark. […]

I wrote MythCon with a formal request that it issue an apology to Sargon, Shoe and Armored for the trouble, and then withdraw their invitations to speak, giving those open slots to better, more reasonable, and more compelling names like Ron Miscavige. (I’d have also supported the inclusion of “dissenting” activists who had better reputations and a track record of better behavior.) MythCon politely declined.

Props to Seth Andrews for doing this, I think it’s the right call given how the organizers of MythCon have behaved.

And, yet …

I recently spoke with my wife about all of this. She knows how much I love people, how much I genuinely want to make the right decisions, and how hard I’ve worked to ensure that The Thinking Atheist and my own reputation stay above the drama, the fray, the internet gutters, and the social media flame wars. I haven’t always succeeded, but it’s something I have always strived for.

“Above the drama?” That’s impossible if you want to accomplish any sort of social justice, regressives always kick up drama to defend or excuse themselves. I mean, haven’t all we had this tattooed onto our eyeballs by now?

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

If you’re “above the drama” on social justice issues, you oppose social justice. Not as openly as someone who plots to commit violence, true, but this subconscious and unintentional opposition acts like rain on a mountain.

Extreme voices like Dan Arel – who broadcasts from his latest residence in the town of Oblivion – gleefully poured gasoline on every spark, going so far as to call the hotel with alarmist tales of possible disaster. (Remember that this is the same guy who thinks we should punch Nazis, and that all police officers are terrorists. We can move on, folks. Nothing to see here.)

Punching NAZIS?!?! THIS makes Dan Arel an extremist? Heaven forfend Andrews gets his hand on any video games, which delight in doing much more than punching Nazis. They’re kinda the universal villain, if you haven’t noticed. Arel’s actual views on Nazi-punching are very well argued

Nazism is an ideology based on white supremacy and the eradication, through genocide, of nonwhites (and many others).

A Christian, for example, can believe an atheist is evil for not believing in their god and punch them. Their action, however, is unfounded. They punched an atheist based on an appeal to their emotions.

We know Nazism is evil. We know their goals, we know where their ideology leads. If you punch a Nazi, especially if you’re one of those marginalized and threatened by their ideology, you’re acting in self-defense. Even if you’re a white person punching a Nazi, you’re acting in the defense of others.

So the slippery slope analogy fails immediately here.

… and as for the police as terrorists, I gotta wonder if Andrews has ever heard of “the talk,” or what black parents say to their kids about the police. Or how they discourage their kids from calling the police, for fear of what will happen to them. Or black people in the USA are less likely to call 911 after hearing of police violence against another black person. To some people in the US, police officers are a source of terror. Hence, calling them terrorists is less radical than it first appears.

Look, Seth Andrews, don’t get me wrong: I’m glad you’ve withdrawn from MythCon, it was the right thing to do. But seriously, your support of Black Lives Matter and humanism is badly undercut by your ignorance of social justice. Quit blindly playing the Golden Mean Fallacy card and learn something, dammit.

Fake Hate, Frequentism, and False Balance

This article from Kiara Alfonseca of ProPublica got me thinking.

Fake hate crimes have a huge impact despite their rarity, said Ryan Lenz, senior investigative writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project. “There aren’t many people claiming fake hate crimes, but when they do, they make massive headlines,” he said. It takes just one fake report, Lenz said, “to undermine the legitimacy of other hate crimes.”

My lizard brain could see the logic in this: learning one incident was a hoax opened up the possibility that others were hoaxes too, which was comforting if I thought that world was fundamentally moral. But with a half-second more thought, that view seemed ridiculous: if we go from a 0% hoax rate to 11% in our sample, we’ve still got good reason to think the hoax rate is low.

With a bit more thought, I realized I had enough knowledge of probability to determine who was right.

[Read more…]